Australia disputes the French version of the submarine letter


Tourists stand atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge next to flag poles displaying the state of New South Wales and Australia flags in Sydney, Australia on November 13, 2018. REUTERS / David Gray / Files

SYDNEY, Sept.23 (Reuters) – Australia on Thursday denied a claim by France that Canberra re-committed to a $ 60 billion deal to buy French submarines in a letter sent just before announcing instead, it was buying submarines from the United States and the United Kingdom. .

Canberra’s decision to withdraw from the French submarine contract while forming an alliance known as AUKUS with Washington and London sparked a diplomatic row. France said it was caught off guard by an Australian “stab in the back”.

Earlier this week, the spokesperson for the French Armed Forces Ministry wrote on Twitter that Australia sent a letter to France on the day AUKUS announced it, saying it was satisfied with the progress of the program.

“In short: looking forward to launching the next phase of the contract,” wrote spokesperson Hervé Grandjean. Read more

However, Australia’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the letter, which it said was sent the day before the announcement, contained no new commitments.

“This correspondence did not refer to or authorize the start of the next phase of the program, which remained subject to the announcement of Australian government decisions,” a Defense Department spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters .

The letter, dated September 15, informed French defense firm Naval Group that it had officially withdrawn from a review that began in January, the spokesperson said. The contract between Australia and Naval Group provided for exit ramps in which Australia could pay to exit the project.

Naval Group said Australia terminated the contract for reasons of “convenience”.

Reporting by Kirsty Needham Editing by Peter Graff

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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